Making Back-to-School Safer and Healthier for Students
As we all prepare for back-to-school, the Coalition for Healthier Schools is urging policymakers and the community to take new action for safer, healthier and cleaner schools for children across America.
In this press release, community leaders come together to urge us all to speak up on the school environments that do not favor learning or development for students.
Fragrances are one of the biggest triggers for difficulties with concentration/learning, confusion, and even irritability. This is because fragrances are designed to affect the limbic system, which includes the hippocampus (short term memory) and amygdala (mood). Thus, they have no place in any learning environment.
Fragrances and/or scented cleaning products are used regularly to cover up unpleasant odors resulting from inadequate cleaning. Laundry products, dryer sheets, personal care products such as deodorants, after shaves, etc., frequently contain fragrances. These especially cause problems for sensitive individuals because they are worn close to the individual’s “breathing zone.” It is very common to encounter these odors in a school setting. Minimizing or eliminating fragrances can be a task, but can also make a huge difference in respiratory symptoms (like asthma), irritability, and cognition (ADHD). (See this fragrance-free policy linked within the agenda listed on this press release).
A fragrance-free policy can teach a critical lesson, as fragrances can trigger breathing difficulties, headaches, even nausea and vomiting in people who are sick or sensitive to chemicals.
Chemically affected children and their parents do need to be aware (without necessarily becoming avoidant) whether their symptoms are associated with particular odors such as fragrances worn by a teacher, therapist or fellow student, odors of cleaning chemicals including “air fresheners,” disinfectants, school supplies, new construction (such as particle board cabinets or new carpets), or other cleaning chemicals. These exposures have useful “warning properties,” that is, their odors alert the sensitive individual to the presence of these fragrance molecules in the air.
Chemically intolerant individuals who lack a sense of smell, i.e., they are “anosmic,” often have difficulty associating their symptoms, such as asthma or headaches, with any particular exposures. Anosmia can be caused by irritants, allergens, chronic allergic rhinitis, nasal polyps, a cold, or chemical exposures causing inflammation and swelling inside the nose, blocking smell receptors in the upper part of the nose.
-Sabrina Gonzales & Dr. Claudia Miller